ReLocavore: Redefining "local"

A locavore moves from Wisconsin to New Hampshire and rediscovers what "local" means.


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Pig Tales, Part 2: Cutting up a pig

Once picked up my pig, I had to figure out what I got in my delivery, and what to do cook with it. For pork and other types of meats, there seems to be no consistency in what different cuts are called. I tracked down a basic map from the Cooks Illustrated Meat Book and tried to annotate, as best as I could, the locations of my roasts. This map can help me determine the best way to prepare the roasts.

The shoulder is the area with lots of connective tissue and should be slow cooked, braised, barbecued or stewed.

The loin is the tastiest bits of pork and can be roasted, but also sliced thin or made into chops.

The belly is bacon, plain and simple. Don’t mess around with perfection.

And the leg gets smoked and becomes a ham. Or maybe prosciutto. Next time.

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Pig tales, Part 1. Inventory

I got half a pig!

I found out on the Upper Valley Mailing list that there was a half of a hog available for sale. YES! I drove up to Bradford, VT to pick up my slaughtered, processed and frozen pork, with dreams of tasty tasty things. From the hog farmer, I found out some unfortunate soul had to back out of their pork order. Their loss.

I had to fill out a complex sheet for the butcher to process my pig. I do NOT want a bunch of ground pork and pork chops. We just don’t eat them. I want my pork in large roasts, which allow me to make roast pork, or, if I so choose, cut down the roast into smaller pieces. When I put food by, I want it to be as versatile as possible.

(That is not my pig, but is one of the porcine brethren that was raised with my pig.)

Here is what I got:

Bacon and Bacon Ends

Ground pork

2 bone-in rib end roasts

Shoulder roast

2 butt roasts

2 loin roasts

A ham

Spare ribs.


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Science gizmos to the rescue! 


Sam and I made salsa tonight. 12 pints from 10 lbs tomatoes, 2 lbs tomatillos, 1 lb peppers, 1lb onions and spices.

Don’t know if you know this, but I got a digital pH meter for my birthday last year. Why would anyone want a digital pH meter? Here’s why…

Because they’re awesome when canning salsa. So useful. 

Some background… Nasty microbes like botulism can’t survive at high temperatures or in acidic foods. Canning kills off the microbes with heat and seals the jar so no more microbes can come in. The acid in the food keeps any remaining microbes from breeding. 

There’s two kinds of canning, waterbath canning which uses 220°F water to kill off any microbes in the jars and to seal the contents. The second method is pressure canning whereby I use pressure to raise the boiling point and kill off any super-nasty microbes. You choose the canning method based on two factors. First, if the product contains meat or seafood, you have to pressure can because meat isn’t acidic and nasty microbes thrive in meat. Second, if the pH of the food is above 4.6 (less acidic) you have to pressure can because there isn’t enough acidity to keep the nasty microbes in check. 

There are a number of foods that have pH levels at or around 4.6, most notably tomatoes. Ripe tomatoes have a higher pH, are less acidic. With tomato products, it’s always been a guessing game as to whether I can water bath or pressure can. 

Salsa does terribly in pressure canning because the extra high temps turn the tomatoes into mush. In previous years, when I have made salsa, I have always needed to add 2 cups of lemon juice to ensure that the pH of the salsa is low enough to water bath can. 

Not any more. 
This year, I was able to use the digital pH meter and record the baseline acidity of the salsa- 4.7, just above the threshold for waterbath canning. But instead of adding two whole cups of lemon juice to ensure the pH dropped considerably, I instead was able to add lemon juice a little bit at a time and recheck the pH. The final pH of the salsa was 4.38, well with in the safe zone for waterbath canning. 

Science! And tasty salsa. 


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Hamilton Falls, Jamaica, VT

 

2016-07-26 16.44.05-1Hamilton falls was very memorable.The falls themselves are lovely and the pools are very deep and good for submersion swimming. There is also a deep grotto to the right of the falls full of smooth river stones. People would pile them up into small cairns and Pidi had a great time knocking the stones off into the water. We ran into a group of girls at summer camp and they fawned all over Pidi and Daisy, giving them pets and treats.

I slipped while playing on the rocks and, in that breath, I was convinced I had broke my foot. My shoe and foot got wedged tightly into the crevasse between two big boulders and I needed to un-velcro my shoe and use two hands to pull the shoe out from between the rocks. I lost most of my toenails, bruised up my toes very badly, but thankfully, was still able to walk. On this trip, that was the only real injury I sustained. I fed a lot of mosquitos and black flies and scraped up my legs and knees climbing up waterfalls to get a better vantage point, but those were relatively minor consequences of being out-of-doors for an extended period.

One of the Campers had a Fuji Instax camera and offered to take a picture of Pidi, Daisy and me. She snapped the picture and, just like the Polaroid pictures of old, out of the camera came an actual, physical, tangible picture. The picture was underexposed and the color was off, but the picture was still meaningful. It was a thing that captured this moment. Yes, I know everyone over 30 years old is aghast  – this is how pictures used to be! Yes, I take hundreds of digital pictures, and I share pictures with my friends and family using this site and on Facebook, etc… But this shitty picture, that I was holding in my hand, was a physical manifestation of a moment. AND, I realized, I can’t share that moment with anybody but myself. You can’t post a Polaroid to Facebook or TXT it to a friend. Somehow that made it more special. Souvenir.

After Hamilton Falls, we drove home happy, cool and well-rested. It was a really wonderful trip. I think we will go see more waterfalls in the future. Maybe not 9 waterfalls in 3 days next time…

 

 


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Lye Brook Falls, Manchester, VT

8-Lye Brook Falls

(Note the tiny person shown for scale.)

Effort: Maximum. We hiked for an hour and 20 minutes to get to the falls, then had an hour hike back to the car. It was an OK hike, but the trail was full of cantelope-sized smooth stones, (mountain bikers call them baby heads) making hiking a challenge on the feet and ankles.

Reward: The guidebook I referenced mentioned that we should visit these falls in Spring or early Summer when the water level is high. When we were there, there was a steady trickle of water falling down the rocks. The pools were 1 to 3 inches deep – barely enough for wading, let alone a much-needed swim after a hike in the heat. I think I would also like the hike in the winter to see the falls crusted in ice.

Fun: This hike would have been a lot more fun in the spring when there was more water in the falls. That being said, it was a nice hike.

Pidi and Daisy’s Evaluation: We love hiking. We love to run around in the woods with our jingle bells. One problem – there wasn’t a lot of water to drink along the trail, so we had to keep asking mom for a drink.


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Moss Glen Falls, Granville, VT

7-Moss Glenn Falls Granville

This is the other waterfalls named “Moss Glen” in Vermont. The other one was better. 

Effort: Below minimal. You pull off the side of the road in the Green Mountain National Forest, walk 100 feet on a board walk, and voila! Waterfalls. If you want, you don’t even have to stop – you can just rubberneck while driving past.

Reward: Again, Meh. It’s a very sterile Waterfall experience. More like being presented a painting of a waterfall, rather than actually experiencing the waterfall itself.

Fun: Nope, sorry. There were boardwalks.

Pidi and Daisy’s Evaluation: We got dinner! At a waterfall! This place was awesome because we got dinner. Was there a waterfall too?